American Tempest How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution Harlow Giles Unger Da Capo Press, $26, 288 pp.
Defiance of the Patriots The Boston Tea Party & the Making of America Benjamin L. Carp Yale University Press, $30, 311 pp.
In the curious spectacle of avowed conservatives drawing inspiration from an eighteenth-century mob’s illegal destruction of valuable commercial property, we can see that the American Revolution has lost none of its power to confound conventional political categories. Two recent books offer fresh views of the fateful action in Boston harbor on the night of December 16, 1773.
The “Boston Tea Party” did not acquire its name until some fifty years after the event, and much about it remains unknown. Most of the men, many disguised as Indians, who boarded the three trading ships at Griffin’s Wharf and dumped into the harbor 342 chests of East India Company tea—valued at £9,659 (about $1 million today)—kept their participation secret for many years. They mainly feared, even after independence,...